House of Commons Hansard #266 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was treaties.


Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, this bill is certainly worth our attention and should be looked at it in committee. I look forward to debating it in committee, if it passes at second reading, and I will support it. However, I have some serious reservations.

The commitment of the government toward the parks system in our country has been transparently lacking. Cutting $59 million last year is a case in point. We are not sure where the government is trying to take us, but the creation of a new park may be a step in the right direction. Perhaps putting the $59 million back into the system would be another step in the right direction.

In the interim, let us talk about what is being done at Sable Island. There is talk about creating a buffer zone. The parliamentary secretary mentioned that. The member spoke about the Magdalen Islands and the protections to be created there. Protections consist of, for instance, marine-protected areas around parks, as is planned to be done in the Magdalen Islands. The question is what kind of protection that is. It is still completely undefined for the Magdalen Islands and remains undefined, even though we have talked about for years. I would like the government to come clean on what its definition of marine-protected areas really is.

Let us talk about Sable Island. If there is going to be a buffer zone around the island, we are talking about low-impact seismic testing. We know seismic testing can blow the eardrums right out of whales that are crossing through those areas during seismic testing.

Could the member please explain to me the meaning of low-impact seismic testing? What protections are going to be put in place for marine mammals and how is the government going to ensure that seismic testing is, in fact, going to be low impact that it is not going to affect marine mammals as they cross through the area of this new park?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly the member's support for this bill is appreciated. Sending this to committee is an important step in the process, so that is encouraging to hear. I understand that the member will have a role in suggesting witnesses so that we can see some of the structure associated with the conservation process and hear appropriate guidelines and suggestions.

There is already an ongoing dialogue between the Government of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada. I know that the member for Calgary Centre-North has spoken in the House of Commons in great detail to some of the elements of conservation and what they would entail. The member may want to take a look at that in Hansard.

Overall, this is a fundamental commitment to the province of Nova Scotia and to Canadians that we value our natural heritage sites. If we look at the big picture, it is about supporting ongoing efforts to expand our national parks system. Since 2006, we have seen not only a net increase in the budget for Parks Canada but an astounding 54% increase in the number of square kilometres associated with Parks Canada.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House in support of Bill S-15, Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act, at second reading.

I should first note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Lambert.

Among other things, Bill S-15 proposes to make Sable Island, a small island 175 km off the south-east coast of Nova Scotia, Canada’s 43rd national park.

It is a very interesting bill that has support from regional and national environmental groups. It is the result of negotiations between the federal government and the provincial NDP government. Clearly, with support from the community and from government, we already have an opportunity to take the longer view, and perhaps support it.

A few months ago, on one of those rare evenings of rest I was able to get, I happened upon an article about Sable Island. I was truly fascinated by what I was able to learn, particularly about the unique ecosystem of this thin sand dune off the coast of Nova Scotia. I found the island absolutely magnificent. It is a most impressive place, with over 300 unique species of birds, insects and butterflies, and a herd of the wild horses that are the cause of its fame.

The flora of Sable Island are just as varied, and include a number of plants rarely found elsewhere on our planet. Uninhabited, except for a handful of researchers, this island continues to stir the imagination of Canadians today, and must be protected, both because of its unique and important ecosystem, and its historical value. The island is very fragile, and exposed to the winds of the Atlantic Ocean. In an intensified way, it is subject to the weather conditions of the environment in which it is located.

In designating Sable Island as a national park, this government has the responsibility of granting it the enhanced environmental protection measures that should accompany its designation as a national park.

Although Bill S-15 seems to be an initial step in the right direction, there are still a number of concerns about its wording.

First, the bill prohibits drilling within one nautical mile of the island, or on its surface, but still allows drilling underneath it. This is a first for a national park in Canada, but it is not one to be proud of. In my view, a very dangerous precedent is being created for future national parks that may be created over the years in Canada. I would not like to see similar rights granted to some companies that own drilling rights, such as ExxonMobil, which still has the right to drill close to Sable Island. I believe such an opening is very dangerous, and it should be studied in detail in committee.

The current wording of Bill S-15 also allows various types of low-impact exploration on the surface of the Island, but without a clear definition of what that expression means. I have problems with this, because it is difficult to imagine all the different kinds of exploration that might be carried out on Sable Island, which is already very fragile.

My colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine has raised some concerns about the effects of some kinds of exploration, which are considered to be low-impact but which can have very harmful effects on marine mammals in the vicinity of such tests.

For these reasons, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has a lot of work to do before we can fully support the bill as currently drafted. It has some fairly serious shortcomings, and we must ensure that the text that emerges from the committee's proceedings guarantees genuine protection for Sable Island's invaluable habitats and ecosystems.

Parks Canada's mandate is to protect the natural and cultural heritage of our national parks. The final text of Bill S-15 must truly reflect that mandate and implement practical measures to ensure that it is carried out.

I come from the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, where nature is a very important part of people's everyday lives and environmental protection issues are among their greatest concerns. They regularly enjoy the outdoors, hunting and fishing, but they also want to protect our natural resources.

Last Saturday, I attended the Saint-Basile-de-Portneuf fishing festival, during which I even had a chance to go and stock the river with trout.

This is one of the many actions the municipality takes every year to ensure that fishers retain their access to the river, which is very close to the village, and are able to continue fishing without depleting all the fish stocks in the river. These efforts show how important nature is to the people of my riding.

Although there is no federal national park in my riding, there is a provincial park, the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. There is also the Portneuf wildlife reserve, which I highly recommend to everyone as a summer vacation destination. People will not be disappointed by it.

The Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is less than 30 minutes north of Quebec City. The Government of Quebec created the 670-km² park in 1981 to protect a representative sample of the natural region of the Laurentian mountains. Some of you may have had the opportunity to travel across part of the park if you have ever driven from Quebec City to Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean or other neighbouring areas. That route features a very good sample of the region's natural assets. In addition to a spectacular glacier valley, the park is also crossed by a salmon river, the Rivière à saumon, and is home to rich and diversified plant and animal life.

The Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is also home to an isolated herd of nearly 75 woodland caribou, a cervid species considered vulnerable and found in very small numbers in the province of Quebec. I saw one on one of my many trips across the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, between Quebec City and Jonquière, where I lived for a number of years. Protection for the caribou's environment, part of which is located in the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, is essential to the species' survival.

The 775-km2 Portneuf wildlife reserve is located approximately 40 km north of Saint-Raymond, halfway between Quebec City and Trois-Rivières. It is another large nature preserve in my riding. Some of you may perhaps already be familiar with the region, which is well known to hunting and fishing enthusiasts who come to the service cooperative in Rivière-à-Pierre to stock up on provisions before heading off to take advantage of this wildlife reserve's magnificent hills and valleys, as well as its countless lakes and rivers.

Plans are already underway in my riding to create a protected area in the Portneuf wildlife reserve, and work to protect the ecosystems in this part of the area is ongoing. With such a wealth of natural resources in my own riding, it is difficult for me not to take an interest in other natural resources in Canada, including those of Sable Island, which is the subject of the bill before us today.

Unfortunately, I do not feel reassured when I look at the Conservatives’ track record on the environment, particularly when the bill would leave open the possibility of drilling underneath Sable Island. An environment as fragile as this already needs our protection, and preserving its ecosystem means that the number of people visiting it should be kept down. This bill, however, leaves open the possibility of drilling underneath the island. This, to me, is inconceivable, particularly given the Conservatives' track record.

In 2012 alone, the Conservatives eliminated important environmental protection measures, including 99% of federal environmental assessments and 98% of protective measures for Canada's navigable waterways. They eliminated the protection regime for most fish habitats. They also slashed $29 million from the Parks Canada budget and eliminated over 6,000 jobs, all of which clearly demonstrates that Canada's national parks are anything but a priority for this government.

The Conservatives are proposing the establishment of Canada's 43rd national park, but are not providing Parks Canada with everything it needs to fulfill its mandate to protect and preserve our natural heritage. That is what worries me.

I am therefore supporting the bill at second reading so that it can be referred to committee for the in-depth study that is necessary. I hope that what comes back to us in the House is a version that truly protects Sable Island, an outcome that is absolutely essential.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta


Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I was quite pleased to hear the level of detail and content in my colleague's speech.

In previous debate, we have talked about the fact that this bill would not amend the Canada National Parks Act in order to permit low-impact petroleum activities; rather, it would amend the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to restrict the board's current powers to authorize various forms of hydrocarbon exploration in and around the area. This is a very positive environmental gain for Sable Island.

Unfortunately, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has tried to confuse this issue, quite seriously, in the media. How does my colleague opposite feel about this, given that the NDP government in Nova Scotia has been one of the most active proponents of this legislation; has passed a very similar bill in its legislature; and has been working in a very positive way with industry, first nations groups and various other stakeholder groups in order to get this real ecological gain for the area?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question.

The NDP government in Nova Scotia is doing what I would like to see the federal government do. It is taking the time to consult those who will be affected by the bill; it is taking the time to discuss the matter with all segments of society, from first nations to industry. That openness is important. It is important to hear all the points of view and have a conversation in order to come to the best possible agreement. That is worth applauding. The NDP government in Nova Scotia took steps to get to where we are concerning Sable Island.

What saddens and worries me is that there is still the possibility of exploring for oil under Sable Island. Similar measures could be put in place for other new parks. Currently, certain oil companies are retaining their right to drill under the island. They can set up 1.1 or 1.2 nautical miles away from the island and drill horizontally under the island.

I see some of the members opposite gesturing as if to say that that is not the case. However, ExxonMobil is one such company that is retaining its right to drill under Sable Island. This is a first for a national park. I am worried about the precedent it will set.

I hope that we can really have that discussion in committee because, generally speaking, the Conservatives hold the majority in committee, and they cut short most of the discussions that are not to their liking.

I hope that, this time, they will take the time to listen to all of the witnesses and really take an in-depth look at this issue.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it certainly must be unusual in the House to have the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment twice attack the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, myself, by name. I wonder if my hon. colleagues are as surprised as I am.

I have said very clearly that I want to see the creation of Sable Island's national park, but that we must not allow the integrity of the national park system to be sacrificed. It is very clear that this legislation would allow the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board the rights to regulate activities inside a national park. It would be obligated to only consult Parks Canada about the decisions it makes. It would not even need to get a sign-off from Parks Canada before it undertakes activities.

This is a significant threat to the integrity of the entire national parks system. I ask my friend to expand on her comments regarding her concern that this sets a dangerous precedent.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

What she describes is strangely reminiscent for me of the situation currently prevailing with regard to aviation. Developers can in fact set up anywhere, without having to ask permission from Transport Canada to do anything. They merely have to notify it of what they are doing. Here we have a similar scheme. I find this deplorable and rather disturbing.

I said just now that people seemed to be saying there would be no exploration or drilling on Sable Island. However, the subsoil of Sable Island is not part of the national park. It would be excluded.

I do not entirely understand the reasoning of this government, which asserts that it will not allow any exploration on Sable Island, even though the subsoil nevertheless remains accessible to some companies. Are we going to find similar measures in future laws establishing national parks? I hope not.

I hope that the necessary provisions to avoid such a situation will be included in Bill S-15.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak on Bill S-15.

I first want to stress the fact that despite the importance of the debate and the exchanges on the subject, the Conservative government has again imposed a limit on debate. Consequently, there is once again an undemocratic short-circuiting of the customary parliamentary process.

That said, as stated, Bill S-15 amends the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and makes consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

In more concrete terms, this initiative from the Senate would designate Sable Island as Canada’s 43rd national park. Quite obviously, we are delighted at the move to protect this unique place, which has stirred our imaginations with its beauty, its history and the ecological heritage it represents.

The bill includes a number of measures. First, drilling less than one nautical mile from the island, or on the surface of the island, would be strictly prohibited. This would make it possible to protect the visible areas from any petroleum development. Of course, this would be an important step in preserving the integrity of the area and the ecosystem that is part of it.

On the other hand, it is important to emphasize that exploration activities would be tolerated, provided they had little impact on the ecosystem of the island. Moreover, this partial prohibition would not include seismic testing, which can have an environmental impact on the area.

In that connection, we note that unfortunately, the concept of impact is not formally defined in the bill. This will be one of the factors to be explored in committee. However, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board should consult Parks Canada on the conduct of such exploration activities. This is important, because it would ensure collegial management of the space occupied by Sable Island and maximize its protection.

In the same vein, while surface drilling will be prohibited, underground drilling would be allowed. This would clearly constitute a first for a national park. Consequently, we shall have to know exactly how this significant aspect of the bill will be overseen. While the technology is not fully developed in this area, the fact remains that we will be confronting that aspect sooner or later.

Another element found in Bill S-15 is the installation of landing platforms for helicopters used to evacuate offshore workers. We applaud this inclusion, as we value the safety and security of all our people. The spirit that guides these measures takes us one step in the right direction in order to protect that jewel, Sable Island.

Let us remember that this ecosystem harbours many unusual species of flora and fauna, some of them unique to Sable Island. They include the 250 wild horses, the seals that reproduce there and the many bird colonies.

In 1977 the government had already recognized the ecological importance of Sable Island and designated it a migratory bird sanctuary. As a result, the unique ecological heritage of this area is well known and our duty as parliamentarians is to work to protect it.

Naturally, like many environmentalists, the NDP agrees with the principles expressed in Bill S-15. We are in favour of protecting Sable Island in all its facets and establishing boundaries for the human activities that take place there.

Certainly, there are several aspects of this legislation that should be studied in committee. It will be essential to consider the concepts of exploration and impact we find in the bill. What will be considered a low impact? How much petroleum exploration activity will we allow on the island? What will the relationship be between the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and Parks Canada? What will we do if a petroleum deposit is discovered beneath Sable Island?

It will also be important to consider the possibility of exploration using seismic testing. These are questions that must be asked by the parliamentarians who are members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

In short, the work done in the committee will determine the future success and survival of this national park. Moreover, we believe that we must be in constant contact with the various stakeholders involved in the current legislative process. They include the Nova Scotia provincial government, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Ecology Action Centre, the Green Horse Society and the Friends of Sable Island Society.

This is a serious matter. We must ensure that all stakeholders work together with parliamentarians to complete this project and set up a national park that will meet ecological and environmental objectives.

That said, the Conservatives are trying to present Bill S-15 as environmental good news. It was true, although certain reservations have been expressed about the creation of this national park. However, that does not diminish the fact that ever since it came to power the government has done all it could to eliminate, weaken and stall environmental measures.

The fact that Canada withdrew from Kyoto clearly showed that the Conservatives had abdicated their environmental responsibilities. Then they cut back considerably on environmental assessments, which must be done for companies' projects and routine activities. This is clearly having a significant impact on various practices, and it will have serious effects on our ecosystem. What is worse, the Conservatives deny that there is a problem with the environment or that climate change exists, which seriously taints the creation of Sable Island national park.

The NDP, on the other hand, has done everything it can to promote environmental values. We remain the only credible political party the public can trust to protect ecosystems and ensure that sustainable development is at the heart of everything we do.

That will be the basis for our work on Bill S-15. We will support the bill at second reading, so that it can be sent to committee. However, we will do everything we can to limit potential and foreseeable environmental abuses. We will be listening to stakeholders and will do what we can to develop the best bill possible for the creation of Sable Island national park.

I am now prepared to take questions from my colleagues.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the great speech by my colleague and the fact that on all sides of the House we are interested in preserving our environment for current and future generations of Canadians.

One comment my colleague made, however, did cause me some concern. She drew attention to the fact that we withdrew from the Kyoto accord. Is she aware that during the time of the Kyoto accord that the Liberal government had signed on to, our emissions actually rose by 30%? Under our government, between 2005 and 2010, our greenhouse gas emissions have actually reduced by 6.5% in a time when our economy grew by 6.5%.

It is hard for me to square the circle as to how my colleague could be upset about withdrawing from Kyoto, which was so ineffective, it is obvious, yet not recognize the great work that has been accomplished over these last six or seven years.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very serious for this government to withdraw from Kyoto, and we denounced this action. If the government claims to want to protect the environment, it cannot turn around and do the opposite. Obviously, since my colleague acknowledged that emission levels have remained steady and even increased, we cannot disregard our environmental responsibilities. It is more urgent and necessary than ever to focus on the environment and protect our ecosystem.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can see what kind of government we have here. I appreciate my colleague’s comments, because they are bang on. She has put her finger on the real environmental issue here and how this government simply does not pay any attention to the many environmental needs.

We have said that we are prepared to support the bill so that it can move forward. We have concerns about the oil companies and the fact that they would be able to explore for oil under the island. That is why we want the bill referred to committee.

However, this government slashed the Parks Canada budget by $29 million, while providing $1 million in federal grants to highly profitable gas and mining companies.

We heard comments from the Conservatives about what they did at Lake Simcoe. What they did was eliminate environmental protection under the Navigable Waterways Protection Act, while providing $29 million to remove the phosphorus. On one hand, the government says it wants to provide assistance, but then it takes it away with the other hand.

Could my colleague speak about the fact that the government hands out a great deal of money with one hand and takes it away with the other?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments and her speech.

As she pointed out, the Conservatives' logic is ridiculous, given that they made $29 million in cuts and eliminated 600 jobs at Parks Canada. At the same time, they would like us to believe that they are in touch with what is going on with the environment and our ecosystems.

They are clearly not doing enough with respect to the environment. There are also concerns, which is why it is important that this bill be referred to committee for further study, particularly with regard to matters related to oil companies and any potentially related activities.

It is absolutely clear that this bill needs to be referred to committee for further review because a number of issues are very worrisome.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak at second reading in support of Bill S-15, which is the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act.

The main purpose of this legislation is to legally protect forever the natural and cultural values of that treasure known as Sable Island. As the title of the act suggests, through this legislation, we would be expanding the national parks system to conserve Sable Island as our nation's 43rd national park.

As anyone who has resided or visited eastern Canada knows, islands are plentiful throughout this great region. Two of our nation's 10 provinces are islands: the inspiring rock of Newfoundland and Labrador; and the red sands and green fields of Prince Edward Island. There is New Brunswick's Grand Manan Island, Cape Breton Island of Nova Scotia, the Magdalen Islands of Quebec, P.E.I.'s Lennox Island and Fogo Island off Newfoundland. Each of these and other islands have contributed to shaping the distinct nature and culture of what we call Canada.

Over time, as we have settled and developed these grand islands, we have seized the opportunity to protect the nationally significant landscapes on some of these islands.

For example, Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks provide an opportunity for Canadians to explore and discover the east and west coast of Newfoundland. Prince Edward Island National Park is famous for its sandy beaches, red cliffs and the house that inspired the novel Anne of Green Gables and for protecting the piping plover habitat. There is the world renowned Cabot Trail that winds through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Our government is working with the Province of Quebec to assess the potential for a marine protected area in the waters off the Magdalen Islands.

Now we are on the cusp of adding that mysterious and far offshore place known as Sable Island to our national parks system. I hope that all hon. members will join me in supporting Bill S-15.

Throughout this debate, we have heard many testimonials on the natural and cultural attributes of Sable Island that have inspired us to add it to our national parks system. We are impressed by the fact that this island of 30 square kilometres, rising out of the Atlantic Ocean almost 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax, continues to survive as a shifting sandbar on the edge of the continental shelf.

We are inspired that on this island, composed mainly of sand, with sparse vegetation, so far from shore, life abounds. There are 190 plant species, 350 bird species, including the endangered roseate tern and Ipswich sparrow, grey seals and those famous Sable Island horses.

We marvel at the attempts made throughout the 1600s and 1700s to settle the island, despite the rough seas, the storms and fogs that make Sable Island such a hazard to navigation. The more than 350 recorded shipwrecks in this area stand as a testament to the difficulty of simply accessing Sable Island, let alone trying to settle it.

We are hopeful that in taking action to protect Sable Island under the Canada National Parks Act, future generations will be proud that the House of Commons, in 2013, developed, debated and passed legislation that enabled the protection of this magnificent and mysterious island.

As I have followed this debate, it appears to me that all parties in the House support the proposal to establish Sable Island as a national park reserve. Many members spoke of the urgent need to get on with the job, as this has been so many years in the making. It is clear from public consultations undertaken by Parks Canada in 2010 that this support and sense of urgency echoes the passionate views of Canadians, especially Nova Scotians. Establishing Sable Island national park reserve of Canada is the right thing to do, and the time to do it is now.

I would also observe a high degree of support for putting in place a legislative ban on drilling, from the surface of Sable Island out to one nautical mile from the shoreline. Many who have participated in this debate have acknowledged and thanked the petroleum companies, such as ExxonMobil Canada, for amending its existing significant discovery licenses to incorporate this legislative ban on exploratory and development drilling.

However, there appears to be one key concern with Bill S-15, and that is the proposal to allow the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to authorize low-impact seismic activity on Sable Island.

I would point out that in reality, the board currently has the authority to permit seismic activity on Sable Island. What Bill S-15 proposes is to limit that authority to low-impact seismic activity. In light of this, I would like to spend the next few minutes speaking to this concern.

As previous speakers have noted, we are establishing Sable Island national park reserve in one of North America's largest active petroleum fields. As we heard earlier, there is a federal-provincial legislative framework in place under the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act that administers all petroleum matters in the Nova Scotia offshore. Since 1988, this legislation has taken precedence over all other federal legislation in this region, including the Canada National Parks Act. As the preamble to Bill S-15 makes clear, this legislation will continue to take precedence.

In August 1986, the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia signed the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore petroleum resources accord. Under the accord, Canada and Nova Scotia agreed to develop oil and gas in the offshore in a manner that would harmonize the interests of all Canadians and those who reside in the province.

The accord called on both parties to pass mirror legislation to create a unified administrative regime for offshore petroleum resources. This goes to the heart of our deliberations. To give legal effect to the 1986 accord, both governments passed legislation in their respective legislatures, with essentially the same wording.

While the names of these bills are a mouthful, for the record, the Government of Canada passed the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, and the Province of Nova Scotia passed the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act. Members will recall that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act takes precedence over all other acts. Thus, to put in place a legal ban against drilling on the surface of Sable Island and to limit potential seismic activity to low impact, both the federal and the provincial accord acts must be amended. This fact has profound implications for our deliberations.

On April 24 of this year, the hon. Charlie Parker, the New Democratic Minister of Energy, tabled Bill 59 in the Nova Scotia legislature to amend the provincial petroleum accord act for several purposes. First was to prohibit the carrying on of work related to drilling for petroleum, including exploratory drilling, in or within one nautical mile of Sable Island national park reserve. Second was to limit the surface access rights provided for under the accord act to, among other things, low-impact seismic activity. Third was to set out a process under which the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board must consult with, and consider the advice of, Parks Canada when considering an application to authorize petroleum-related work or activity in the national park reserve.

When the proposed provincial bill was referred to its law amendments committee, there was one witness, the Ecology Action Centre, that recommended that the bill be amended to delete the option of conducting low-impact seismic activity on Sable Island. However, the New Democratic government chose not to amend its legislation to delete the reference to low-impact seismic activity. The Nova Scotia legislature followed suit, passing Bill 59 without amendment. On May 10, 2013, the provincial bill was given royal assent.

In short, the provincial New Democratic government has passed the legislation called for under the terms of the 2011 national park establishment agreement signed by Premier Darrell Dexter and the federal Minister of the Environment and witnessed by Mr. Leonard Preyra, the provincial Minister of Communities, Culture, and Heritage, and the hon. member for Central Nova.

The provincial New Democratic government was satisfied with the arrangement and was not prepared to amend its legislation. Nova Scotia now awaits the outcome of our deliberations to designate Sable Island national park reserve under the Canada National Parks Act.

I recount this history, because given the concerns expressed about low-seismic activity, it is important to accurately outline the work that would be required in the weeks and months ahead should consideration be given to amending Bill S-15 as the only means of remedying these concerns.

Given that Canada and Nova Scotia passed mirror legislation in 1988 to implement the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore petroleum accord, and given that our Bill S-15 and the Province's Bill 59 have developed mirror legislation to amend these acts to implement the drilling ban and to limit seismic activity to low impact, and given that Nova Scotia has passed its Bill 59 without amendment, the implication for our work is clear: should we decide the amend Bill S-15, additional work would need to be undertaken.

The provincial New Democratic government would have to decide whether it is prepared to once again amend its provincial accord act, this time to delete or amend references to seismic activity.

While I cannot speak for the provincial New Democratic government, it is clear that in negotiating the national park establishment agreement and in rejecting a prior recommendation to alter the seismic activity reference, they are supportive of the current approach.

Additional consultations would also have to be undertaken with the petroleum industry to determine its views on such a change. Again, while I cannot speak for the industry, it would seem to me that since petroleum activity within the broader Sable basin will continue, industry and the offshore petroleum board would require the most accurate seismic data in order to reduce the exploration risk when drilling expensive offshore oil and gas wells.

Allow me to offer a few observations on the issue of low-impact seismic activity.

It is my understanding that the offshore petroleum board has indicated to Parks Canada that it is currently not aware of a need for additional seismic data to be collected on Sable Island. However, these needs may very well change in the future.

In addition, should a company seek an authorization to collect new data from Sable Island, the board would require justification from the company that the current seismic information is not sufficient and that information could not be gathered beyond the national parks reserve.

Failing the above, the board would also seek from the company assurances that other less intrusive techniques could not be used to augment the existing seismic information.

Finally, if after all this it had been clearly demonstrated that a seismic program that would place equipment on Sable Island was required, an environmental assessment would be conducted under the policy of the offshore petroleum board. This assessment would have to meet the Canadian Environment Assessment Act standard of determining the likelihood of an activity to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

Given the requirement of Bill S-15 that the board seek the advice of Parks Canada on such a proposed authorization, Parks Canada would clearly have an opportunity to influence the nature of any proposed seismic undertaking.

I look forward to the in-depth discussions that will ensue at committee on these and other issues related to the designation of Sable Island as a national park reserve, and I trust that clarity will be brought to the issues that have been raised in this chamber.

I would like to address one other major concern that has been expressed during this debate: the notion that Bill S-15 will undermine the integrity of our internationally renowned national parks system. The concern focuses on the suggestion that by continuing to allow the offshore petroleum board to authorize seismic activities, although Bill S-15 proposes to limit that authorization to low impact, we are somehow setting a precedent for other national parks across Canada as well as for future national parks.

I appreciate this concern. It speaks to the non-partisan support that exists in the House for the desirability of protecting our nationally significant lands and waters in protected national parks for the benefit of present and future generations. It speaks to the actions that Parliament has taken over the decades, indeed, spanning the last three centuries since 1885, when it created Banff National Park to forever set aside iconic landscapes and their resident plant and animal species.

However, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment made clear in her remarks last Thursday, we are giving effect to the drilling ban and to limiting seismic activity to low impact by amending the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Accord Implementation Act, not the Canada National Parks Act. We are not introducing any changes whatsoever to the Canada National Parks Act that could be remotely interpreted as allowing seismic activity in any other existing national park. I cannot be clearer on this point. It will not be allowed in Aulavik National Park or in Yoho National Park or in any other national park in between.

I would also like to make it clear that we are not amending the Canada National Parks Act to permit low-impact seismic activity on Sable Island: seismic activity is already allowed on Sable Island. We are amending the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to restrict any future seismic work to low impact on Sable Island. Thus, it will only be within Sable Island national park reserve that at some future date the offshore petroleum board may authorize low-impact seismic activity.

Through Bill S-15, we are enhancing the integrity of our national parks system. We are bringing the highest level of federal legislative protection to Sable Island as a national park reserve.

As the parliamentary secretary also made clear, when we negotiate for the creation of new national parks, we are often challenged to consider whether or not to allow certain activities to continue on a case-by-case basis. For the most part, we are able to achieve a new national park that respects the act and that is completely true to the best of our intentions, but sometimes that is just not possible. That simple reality is no reason to completely abandon the idea of designating an area a national park.

I would remind the House that it was only in 2009 that Parliament passed legislation authorizing the permitting of several mineral access roads through the expanded Nahanni National Park Reserve. This was no doubt a difficult decision, but one that made possible a six-fold expansion of Nahanni, producing what was referred to as the greatest conservation decision of this generation.

As we move forward with Bill S-15, I trust that we will balance our duty to maintain the integrity of our national parks system with the opportunity to finally provide Sable Island with the level of protection and conservation framework that has been called for over the past 50 years. With this approach in Bill S-15 to balance the conservation and development needs of Sable Island with the broader Nova Scotia offshore needs, with the balancing of the goals of the offshore petroleum accord act with the Canada National Parks Act, we are achieving real conservation gains for Sable Island.

Let me paraphrase the hon. Minister of the Environment in his remarks last Thursday night. Through Bill S-15, we are accomplishing the following: a new national park reserve for Sable Island, Canada's 43rd national park; the application of a comprehensive conservation framework to Sable Island for the first time in 50 years; a legislative ban that for the first time will prohibit all exploratory and development drilling for petroleum resources from the surface of Sable Island; the creation of a legislative buffer zone around Sable Island that will prohibit drilling out to one nautical mile; a prohibition on the extraction of non-petroleum resources from beneath the surface of Sable Island; a limit on the number of petroleum-related activities that can be authorized by the offshore petroleum board on Sable Island national park reserve; limiting the current ability of offshore petroleum board to authorize any seismic activity on Sable Island to low-impact activity; providing a legislative requirement for the offshore petroleum board to seek and consider advice from Parks Canada should it choose to authorize activities listed in Bill S-15; and developing a management plan within five years that will direct the necessary measures to protect Sable Island to enable visitor experiences that respect the fragility of the island and to forge partnerships with interested stakeholders.

Finally, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment for their dedicated leadership on collaboratively developing legislation that will enable the creation of Sable Island national park reserve as Canada's 43rd national park. It is their leadership that has brought this legislation before us today. Now it is up to this chamber to complete our business to ensure that Sable Island will be forever protected so that future generations, whether they choose to visit it or not, will know that this Parliament took action to ensure that the natural and cultural values of this place persist forever.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of Canada's eight national wildlife areas, the Baie de l'Isle-Verte National Wildlife Area, is in my riding in Quebec. It is one of the largest protected marshlands in the whole country.

Since the government got its majority, the organization in charge of this protected area, the Corporation PARC Bas-Saint-Laurent has had to wait nine months every year for its tiny envelope of funding to be renewed, funding that was cut by 56% last year. Local partners now have to cover the cost of 90% of the resources the organization needs just to keep trails open and maintain the park. That is the true impact of the Conservatives' cuts and their attitude toward parks in our regions.

Creating parks is all well and good, but we have to wonder whether that comes with legitimate protection and the resources to maintain a protected area.

We will support the Senate bill before us, but we are actually quite concerned. The federal government keeps talking about low impact, but it will not tell us what that really means. What is the standard? What qualifies as low impact? They will not tell us. The government's lack of transparency here is par for the course, particularly when it comes to environmental issues.

How can my colleague be okay with creating parks—our Conservative friends even included it in their 2012 speech—when the facts show that parks are getting fewer and fewer resources and less and less protection? There are more parks, but they are receiving less protection and not enough resources for maintenance.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that under times of fiscal restraint, we all face difficult choices in terms of how much action the government can take on any specific issue, but there are times when, in spite of fiscal restraint, action has to be taken that shows vision and demonstrates leadership. No government in history has demonstrated more leadership in terms of preserving the environment and creating more national parks than this government in the last seven years.

I would like to refer to something that happened well over 100 years ago, also in a time of extreme fiscal restraint. In 1893, government officials decided that the government would not establish Canada's fourth national park, suggesting it was best to focus on the three existing parks: Banff, Glacier and Yoho. The minister of the day rejected their advice, signing the order, creating a new park, and remarking, “Posterity will bless us”—and it has.

Alberta's Waterton Lakes National Park is a remarkable ecological jewel, a world heritage site and the world's first international peace park. It has prompted conservation partnerships between the Nature Conservancy of Canada and a number of ranchers adjacent to the park. Imagine what would have happened if government had not taken that action.

I am convinced that 20, 40 or 100 years from now our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will say that Parliament acted in 2013 to preserve Sable Island and that they are really thankful we did.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for Kitchener—Conestoga and he had nice-sounding words, but making a national park is just not enough to do the job.

Prince Edward Island National Park, or Green Gables, is in my riding, and the big issue is the resources that will accompany the putting in place of a national park to establish the protective measures necessary.

I can tell the member that with the cutbacks at Parks Canada over the last number of years—and I do not know what will happen this summer with further cutbacks—there are not sufficient wardens to show people how to handle things within that national park now. The sand dunes are very fragile structures and depend on grass to hold the sands in place. People are going up those sand hills and coasting down them. They are tearing the sand hills apart, and there is no one there to explain how that cannot be done within that national park zone.

Yes, Liberals support its becoming a national park, but resources are required to do the job that has to be done to preserve the natural resources that are there, and I do not see those resources accompanying this bill.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague commented on “words and no action”. Well, of all people to use that phrase, I do not think this member should be the one. Under the member's government in 13 years, the Kyoto accord was signed with big intentions of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We all know what happened: they went up 30% under Liberal leadership.

Under this government, at a time of 6.5% growth in economic activity, our greenhouse gases have gone down by 6.5%. If one is to talk about words and no action; this is action.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It being 1:26 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, June 6, 2013, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from June 4 consideration of the motion that Bill S-2, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am very privileged to rise today in support of Bill S-2, family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act.

As a Canadian woman, I find it deplorable that, in 2013, men, women and children living in the majority of on-reserve communities have no legal rights or protections in relation to the family home. In situations of family violence, aboriginal women have often been victimized and kicked out of their homes with nowhere to go. This is why Bill S-2 is so important. It would finally provide the same basic rights and protections to individuals living on reserves, in the event of a relationship breakdown or upon the death of a spouse or common-law partner, that are available to all other Canadians.

Ultimately, Bill S-2 would remove a factor that contributes in no small way to violence against women living in many first nations communities. The proposed legislation would give these women similar legal protection to that enjoyed by other Canadian women, protection that we take for granted every day. The legislation equip them with the same legal tools and mechanisms that other Canadian women use to prevent and combat abuse and violence, particularly by spouses or common-law partners.

During its review of the legislation now before us, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women heard from a number of witnesses, including women who suffered as a result of this legislative gap. They include women such as Rolanda Manitowabi, a member of a first nation in Ontario. During her testimony, she described how she and her common-law partner built a home together and that she invested her life savings in the project. To protect herself, she got the band to issue her a document naming her as the owner of the property. However, when she and her partner separated, she was evicted from her home. It was at that time she found out that the document had no legal foundation. She stated, “ son and I were thrown out of the house. I had no place to go. I was in a crisis.... This legislation would have helped...and it would have considered the impacts on my son. I hope [the bill is] available to help other women and children on reserves”.

The members of the committee also heard from Jennifer Courchene, a member of a first nation in Manitoba. Jennifer and her children became homeless after her abusive partner forced them out of their home. She told the committee:

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has gone through this in a first nation community. There are probably many, many other women who have gone through what I've gone through, and the story is pretty much the same: the woman loses the home. I'm not sure how other first nations communities are run, but if there had been something to help us, we would have taken it, rather than be homeless, that's for sure.

These are just two examples of women who have suffered as a result of a lack of legal protections on reserve. However, as Dr. Kim van der Woerd, a board member for the Young Women's Christian Association, described in her testimony, these women are not alone. She stated:

With respect to violence, aboriginal women experience spousal or partner violence at a rate three times higher than non-aboriginal women. With respect to housing, aboriginal women are more likely to experience homelessness than aboriginal men, and this homelessness is often related to their experience of violence and escape from violence.

Bill S-2 would go a long way to protect some of the most vulnerable people in Canadian society, specifically women and children living in first nations communities. It would close the legislative gap that continues to cause harm, and would give women like Rolanda and Jennifer, and the thousands of women like them, the legal protection they so rightly deserve, protection similar to what the law affords women who live off reserve.

Bill S-2 would provide aboriginal women two important legal tools to defend themselves: emergency protection orders and exclusive occupation orders. Currently, the law does not provide people who live in the majority of first nations communities with access to these orders.

Under the proposed federal rules, any spouse or common-law partner residing on reserve would be able to apply to a judge or justice of the peace for an emergency protection order. If credible evidence of family violence is presented, the court could issue an order that excludes a spouse or common-law partner from the family home for a period of up to 90 days, with the possibility of a one-time extension.

To ensure that people living in remote communities can access these orders, the federal rules would authorize applications submitted via telephone or email. The rules would also authorize a peace officer or another appropriate person to apply on behalf of a spouse or common-law partner. This provision would protect applicants facing dangerously unpredictable spouses or common-law partners. In past cases, a spouse or common-law partner who learned that an application has been made immediately lashed out, and the consequences have been tragic. By enabling a third party to make applications, this provision would mean that victims would not have to immediately confront violent spouses and possibly place themselves in danger.

Exclusive occupation orders would also provide for one spouse or partner to have exclusive access to the home and could be extended for longer periods of time. The court would determine the time period for each order that it grants. Many of the same conditions would apply. For instance, the person banned from the family home would have an opportunity to contest the order in court. The court would need to consider the broader context, such as the best interests of any children involved in the relationship, the history and nature of any family violence, and the financial and medical circumstances of the spouses or common-law partners.

These orders, the provisional federal rules and the rest of Bill S-2 are designed to ensure that Canadians who live on reserve would have protection and real matrimonial property rights similar to Canadians who live off reserve. The proposed legislation would promote the safety of children and caregivers who experience family violence. It would enable children to remain in the home and benefit from the stability that this provides, including the connection with the community and extended family, and access to services, schools and special programs.

This legislation is not about policy or funding levels. It is about eliminating the cause of injustice in closing a legal loophole that creates inequality and leaves aboriginal women vulnerable. It is about ensuring that all Canadians, whether they live on or off reserve, have similar protections and rights when it comes to family homes, matrimonial interests, security and safety.

It is my hope that the opposition will come to its senses, recognize the very important measures that are in this bill and vote in favour of Bill S-2.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I shall be sharing my time with the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

One of the most conclusive proofs of Canada’s backwardness in its legislation respecting first nations comes quickly to light when we consider the issue of the division of matrimonial real property. In this case, as in many others, aboriginal people tumble into a legal void that illustrates the gap separating them from other Canadians.

Parliament has now been pondering the problems related to this legal void for 10 years. That is an eternity. We have much evidence at our disposal, and a plethora of reports from the Senate and the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, as well as private institutions.

Once again, unfortunately, the Conservative government does not seem to have done its homework, and Bill S-2 does not reflect any of the recommendations produced over the last decade. What is more, the bill is a new version of Conservative paternalism towards aboriginal peoples, since the government did not hold any consultations before drafting it.

The result is a bill that seems to have been written in haste on a restaurant napkin and may jeopardize the fundamental rights of women on reserves. For these reasons, I will be opposing Bill S-2 and encouraging the federal government to review its distressing approach to first nations.

Canada has already seen major legal proceedings rejected by the provincial courts, because provincial law cannot be enforced on aboriginal lands. The cases Paul v. Paul and Derrickson v. Derrickson, in 1986, are good examples. Some 17 years were to pass before the Senate issued a report on matrimonial real property on reserves. The report first identified the legislative void in question, which was not such a bad thing. However, it noted in particular that aboriginal women have no rights in the case of a marriage breakup and have no choice but to leave the home. The report recommended that provincial legislation apply.

Those are very fine ideas for an institution that seems more than ever to have let time pass it by. It might have been considered more useful had the government taken this study into account in drafting Bill S-2. However, since the government prefers to use the other house to reward its party friends, it may not have consulted its earlier deliberations.

No later than 2004, however, the Senate issued another report, the title of which is more explicit: “On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property: Still Waiting”. In that report, the upper house stressed the need for early action with respect to matrimonial real property. Among other things, the report recommended that the issue be referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and so it was.

In 2005, the committee in turn issued a series of recommendations to solve the knotty problem of on-reserve matrimonial real property. Among other things, it recommended that the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women’s Association be consulted on the development of new legislation or the amendment of the Indian Act; that financial assistance be provided to first nations to enable them to develop their own codes respecting real property and matrimonial assets; that any new legislation should not apply to first nations that had developed codes of their own; that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to include aboriginal persons living on a reserve; and that Canada recognize the self-government rights of first nations.

As anyone can see, these are excellent recommendations. Unfortunately, the Conservative government knowingly disregarded them when drafting Bill S-2. This is another shameful waste of public funds. The government has no vision of Canada to offer other than that of a “for sale” sign on the lawn of Parliament.

I say “waste” because the government has chosen to disregard the knowledge we have gained from extensive evidence and from reports that were carefully prepared by various players.

That is not all. In 2006, a report on the status of women put its finger on the problem by citing foreseeable barriers to the administration of an act respecting matrimonial real property on reserves. According to that report, the government should allocate adequate funding to implement such legislation, address the very serious housing shortage on reserves and conduct consultations. Those three essential factors are also not reflected in Bill S-2.

As long as they introduce pointless legislation, the members opposite should consider staying home. In 2006, a departmental report revealed that no consensus had been reached with regard to the legislative measures that should be taken to address the matter. It recommended, for example, that the competing jurisdictions model be used. However, the report specifically emphasized that the government should quickly determine the actual costs of administering provincial statutes on reserves, the solution advocated by the Senate.

The least we can say is that the government had the time it needed to consider the matter. The least we can believe is that it had everything it needed to develop a good bill. The least we can acknowledge is that Bill S-2 is largely inadequate under the circumstances.

This government has always taken an unconventional and paternalistic approach to first nations. I imagine we could not have expected otherwise. I know there are real solutions to the very real problems the first nations are experiencing, particularly as regards matrimonial real property.

There is an urgent need for us to develop a bill that provides quick access to recourse for communities that, in some instances, are far removed from urban and legal centres. We must put an end to violence against aboriginal women by developing a national action plan. We must provide better funding for communities that are part of the 2% and we must resolve the terrible housing crisis among the country's first nations.

A bill that does not take these considerations into account would be nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a comment on the remarks of my colleague.

I had the privilege of joining the status of women committee for its study on violence against aboriginal women in 2010. We travelled to Nunavut, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. We heard over and over again the challenges women in rural and remote communities faced with violence in their homes.

We have responded to calls from aboriginal women, parliamentary committees, international bodies and the Manitoba NDP. They have called for the elimination of the legislative gap that this legislation would fill.

The member referenced a study done by the Senate called “Still Waiting”. Could she justify to the House and tell us what she would tell aboriginal women? If she had her way, they would still be waiting to have the same protection that all Canadians enjoy.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

Yes, aboriginal women were consulted, but that is not reflected in the report. Why not consider what they said? For years now, aboriginal women have been overlooked and treated as though they are not persons.

It is important to consider their opinions in matters pertaining to the status of women, just as those of so-called “other” women in Canada have been taken into account. I have worked to improve the status of women for some 30 years. It is important to consider the opinions of these women, whether they are aboriginal or of other nationalities, and we do not see that in this bill.